Omnitracs' Road Ahead blog

Stress Awareness Month 2020: 5 ways truck drivers can manage COVID-19 stress

Omnitracs

Stress, as most of us know the term today, was actually coined by renowned Hungarian scientist Hans Selye just 50 years ago. Selye incorporated the concept of stress as a human experience, then only used in physics to refer to the interaction between a force and a resistance to counter the force, by defining it as a nonspecific response to the body of any demand. 

Since 1992, the health promotion experts and healthcare professionals behind Stress Awareness Month have sought to educate the public each April of every year on the modern stress epidemic plaguing the world.

In numbers, stress is something we should all be concerned over. The American Institute of Stress works to extensively highlight how stress can impact daily life. Below are just a few of their key findings:

  • 77 percent of people experience negative physical symptoms related to stress.
  • Stress can lead to a wide array of health issues, including high blood pressure, weakened immunity, and a higher risk of heart attack.
  • Job pressure, money, and health are the three leading causes of stress.

The last statistic is particularly relevant in today’s high-stress world of COVID-19. Truck drivers are essential workers with especially high job pressure, concern over long-term job stability, and worry over their overall health due to the constant-exposure nature of their jobs.

To help truck drivers navigate through stress during this time, we have gathered these 5 helpful tips:

#1: Breathe in, breathe out

It’s been said many times, and for good reason. Deep, abdominal breathing for 20 to 30 minutes a day can greatly reduce anxiety and stress. This type of breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates your nervous system, leading to a state of calm throughout your body. The University of Michigan Health System found the following breathing exercises help significantly with stress:

  1. Belly breathing, or putting your hand on your belly and breathing in and out 3 to 10 times
  2. 4-7-8 breathing, or taking a deep breath for 4 seconds, holding it for 7, and releasing it for 8
  3. Roll breathing, or putting your hands on your chest and belly to breathe through your lower lungs and then transfer your breath back out through your upper chest (You’ll want to read their step-by-step guide for this one)

#2: Repeat a quote that comforts you whenever you’re feeling stressed

Words are very powerful, and we have the ability to use them to our advantage. Consider memorizing a quote or phrase that brings you comfort, and repeat it to yourself whenever you’re in need for some relief.

One of our favorites is:

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” 

  • Elbert Hubbard

#3: Feel the burn

Aerobic exercise does wonders for your heart and your metabolism. According to Harvard Health, exercise reduces levels of adrenaline and cortisol, otherwise known as the body’s stress hormones. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, which are natural painkillers and mood elevators for your body.

We know you’re out on the road throughout most of the day, so don’t let the idea of exercising to relieve stress, stress you out. Make exercise work for your schedule by incorporating 20 minutes of pre-bedtime yoga or go on a 20-minute walk during your break.

#4: Spend time with nature — in your mind

This was a strange concept not too long ago, but we can now access relaxing nature sounds whenever we want, thanks to the plethora of mobile applications and videos we have at our disposal. You can also practice guided imagery, which is a relaxation technique that uses positive mental images to increase your mood.

If you like the ocean, consider putting ocean sounds on in the background and closing your eyes to visualize yourself sitting by the ocean — when you’re not driving of course. Practices like these have been proven to have positive effects on heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing, so consider giving it a try.

#5: Rest assured knowing you’re doing your best

While COVID-19 is certainly scary, infections are generally spread through close physical contact and respiratory droplets entering the nose and mouth. If you’re taking precautions like wearing a facemask, using disposable gloves, not touching your face, maintaining physical distancing, and washing your hands with soap and water, know you’re taking the precautions necessary to likely minimize exposure.

Transport Canada recently released guidance on ways commercial drivers can protect themselves during this time, so you can also bookmark our summary of their essential points to use as a reference whenever you need. Sometimes knowing you’re taking the best precautions can greatly alleviate stress or panic.

We hope these 5 tips helped you! Keep tuning in to our Road Ahead Blog for more COVID-19 related topics, and be sure to check out our recent blog post answering your top coronavirus questions.